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School Board invites three applicants to final interviews for superintendent

By Bill Short

On two consecutive evenings last week in the Board Chamber at City Hall, the Millington School Board interviewed six semifinalists who applied to become the city’s first school superintendent. Interviews of three finalists for the position will begin at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

On two consecutive evenings last week in the Board Chamber at City Hall, the Millington School Board interviewed six semifinalists who applied to become the city’s first school superintendent. Interviews of three finalists for the position will begin at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

The Millington School Board voted unanimously this week to invite three applicants among six semifinalists to return for second interviews for the city’s first school superintendent.
Board members took the action Monday night during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Louise Kennon and seconded by Chuck Hurt Jr.
The three finalists are Ronnie Mackin, former regional superintendent of the Achievement School District; Scott Porter, superintendent of the Bluford, Ill., School System; and David Roper, master clinician at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
The other applicants were James Francis, an educational consultant and Tennessee academic specialist; Jonathan Frye, principal of Dyersburg High School; and Pamela Smith-Gordon, superintendent of the Overton County School System in Livingston, Tenn.
The final interviews will begin at 5 p.m. tomorrow in the Board Chamber at City Hall.
Because no question will be “off the table,” Board Chairman Greg Ritter said the members can ask the finalists anything they choose.
Immediately after the interviews are concluded, the board will have a special called meeting to deliberate and select the finalist who will be offered the superintendent position.
The initial interviews were conducted on Dec. 10 and 11 in the Board Chamber.
With a Master of Arts degree in education administration and supervision from Bethel College in Mackenzie, Mackin has also been a teacher, football and baseball coach, athletic director and principal.
In his opening statement, he said that in the Achievement School District, he built policies and schools “basically from the ground up.” And he believes his experience doing that would help the Millington Municipal School System start off on “the right foot.”
Citing his “deep connections” to the community, Mackin said relationships are important in the effort to recruit families whose children will attend Millington’s schools.
“I have relationships with the state of Tennessee and Shelby County schools,” he noted. “That will allow us to get things done quicker, as far as transportation, food services and things that we’re going to have to be able to do.”
Mackin said he has a “90-day entry plan” listing the things he would like to do “independently of the board” to ensure that the necessary tasks are begun.
“There’s an overall scope of the four goals,” he noted. “Then, there’s the actual explicit plan itself. There are a couple of visual graphics that actually state what a Millington graduate will look like under my leadership and under what we want to be able to do.”
In his opening statement, Porter said his career in education spans almost 20 years. Starting in special education, he taught first- and second-grade students in the Effingham, Ill., School System and worked his way up through the “age levels” to middle and high school.
With a Master of Science degree in educational administration from Eastern Illinois University, Porter has been the school superintendent in Bluford, Ill., for the past 10 years.
He acknowledged that the board members might wonder why someone from Southern Illinois wants to come to Millington.
“It’s rare that this type of opportunity comes about for a community to take more local control of its school system,” he said. “That very much intrigued me, and I would like to be a part of that.”
Porter noted that he has “a lot of family” from one end of Tennessee to the other, including a brother in the state.
“When I was a child,” he recalled, “we spent a lot of summers just north of here in the Dyersburg area, where I’ve got an uncle. So, I’m very familiar with West Tennessee.”
Although the board members are embarking on a “historic” opportunity to do some “great things,” Porter said that also entails “great responsibility.” He noted that the next six months will be “crucial” to what happens to the city’s school system.
“This has to be done right,” he concluded. “It has to be done in a way that is not going to disrupt the educational process in this community.”
In his opening statement, Roper said he has been in public education for more than 30 years. With a doctorate in education administration from The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, he has eight years’ experience as a school superintendent in systems comparable in size to what Millington’s will be.
He spent 21 years in the Birmingham, Ala., School System, advancing from a school psychologist to executive assistant superintendent. He subsequently served as the school superintendent in Roanoke, Ala., and Elizabethton, Tenn.
Roper has also been the director of assessment in the Tennessee Department of Education’s Division of Special Education and executive director of the Guilford County, N.C., School System’s Office of Innovative Services.
“I created some new programs and new initiatives,” he recalled, “starting from scratch on some plans for that large school system.”
Roper is currently in his fourth year as a master clinician at MTSU, where he trains teacher candidates.
But he said all of that “pales in comparison” to his relationship with his Lord and his 38-year marriage to his wife Sandy.
“She is the love of my life,” he noted. “And we have been blessed with two children who are now grown and two grandsons who make life interesting and fun.”
As an elder at the Veterans Parkway Church of Christ in Murfreesboro, Roper said he teaches Bible classes and tries to use his skills and abilities to lead in whatever way he can.
“You have a wonderful, exciting opportunity right now in Millington with a brand-new school system,” he concluded. “It’s also very challenging, and I’d like to talk about how I think I could facilitate that.”

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December 2013
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